37 posts categorized "Fantasy"

May 15, 2015

TALE OF TALES — CANNES 2015

Tale-of-talesMuddled yet delightfully grotesque, ribald, and opulent Matteo Garrone’s warped fairytale triptych isn’t winning any awards in Cannes but it breathes with the cinematic madness of Ken Russell. Vincent Cassel is a hoot as a perpetually horny king ruled by his penis, and Toby Jones's performance as an impish king obsessed with a flea that grows to the size of a small hippo is something to, um, savor. 

The bizarre out-of-time narrative exists in a land apparently ruled over by three kings, each of whom has a major obsession, although only in the case of John C. Reilly's King of Longtrellis does that honor go to his Queen (played for droll kicks by an ever-youthful Salma Hayek).

Tale of Tales

The Cannes audience loved the movie even if more than a few of its members couldn't refrain from pulling out their dumb-ass cellphones periodically. 

Not Rated. 125 mins. (B) (Three stars out of five — no halves)

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March 08, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful



Oz the Great and PowerfulWhile coming nowhere near the level of dynamic storytelling of the original 1939 “Wizard of Oz,” Sam Raimi’s prequel film has sufficient charms to temporarily rescue the ongoing draught of G and PG rated family films. James Franco is congenial, if not entirely suitable for the role of Oscar Diggs, a con man magician who gets spirited away by a tornado from his black-and-white earthbound reality to a magical (colorful) land in need of some leadership.

Seams show up early in the patchwork script — by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Although the writers try as they might to establish Oscar as a worthy protagonist during the film’s extended introduction, the character doesn’t quite take. All ambition and greed, Oscar doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body. Not even Michelle Williams’s local Kansas girl Annie can distract Oscar from his mission to be as “great” as Thomas Edison. Forget that Oscar doesn’t exhibit much skill at anything other than your basic huckster magician routines.
Once plopped down in Oz, Oscar meets up with Theodora, The Wicked Witch of the West (Mila Kunis). Theodora plays her dark cards close to the vest, making Oscar believe that it is her sister Glinda (Michelle Williams) who is the bad witch in need of some retribution for terrorizing the citizens of Oz. Theodora is happy to pin Oscar with the presaged role of folktale hero, if she can make him do her bidding. Theodora’s more evil sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) has her own twisted agenda for the newly anointed Oz. It doesn’t take Oscar a.k.a. “Oz” long to understand that Glinda is indeed the “good” witch in the equation.

“Oz the Great and Powerful” misses a wide-open opportunity for nuanced social commentary that the Depression era “Wizard of Oz” so eloquently seized. An auteur such as Guillermo del Toro would likely have been a better choice to script such a potentially rich fantasy as rooted in the global pressures of modern day existence. Don’t go looking too hard for any message beyond how it’s better to be “good” than “great.” The filmmakers didn’t set their sights high enough, and it shows. Still, “Oz the Great and Wonderful” serves its modest purpose of entertaining little ones.

Rated PG. 127 mins. (B-) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

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December 13, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

HobbitPeter Jackson has formally moved away from the artistic act of directing, and into the business of creating synthetic movie “product.” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is to cinema what “pink slime” is to food. Jackson’s unfathomable infatuation with a 48-frame-rate makes “The Hobbit” look like a bad HD soap opera. Has the once highly respected filmmaker has gone too far in the wrong direction to ever return to the potential he once held?

Doubtlessly feeling the pressure of carrying the weight of New Zealand’s version of Hollywood on his shoulders, Jackson has made a prequel movie — to his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy — that effectively negates their existence.

Martin Freeman gives an empathetic if misspent performance as Bilbo Baggins, a “burgler” hobbit chosen by the wizard Gandalf (reliably played by Ian McKellen) to accompany he and his ragtag band of dwarves on a journey to regain their mountain home. A terrible fire-breathing dragon drove them out, and still resides there. Enter an interchangeable parade of dwarf characters — roughly 14 — to make a mess of Bilbo’s cozy earth-sheltered home. An hour goes by before anything happens. Once on their journey, it’s the same old dog and pony show. A series of battles with Orcs and various chase scenes lead our vista-loving travelers to a brief stay-over in Rivendell to seek the advice of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Saruman (Christopher Lee). Yawn. Audience eyes water uncontrollably behind 3D glasses. More yawning. Check your watch. Yawn again.

The film’s big moment finally arrives when Bilbo comes face to face with Gollum (Andy Serkis) for the first time. Except that this Gollum turns out to be much crazier than the one represented in the “Lord of the Rings” films. This time around, Gollum is off the bat-shit scale of loopy. No more eating of fish. This Gollum wants human flesh. Most bizarre is the complete lack of meaning or context given for the “precious” gold ring that the burglar Bilbo makes off with.

In the mindset of a paying audience member, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” would be enough to insure that I not return for the final two installments if this atrocity. However, as a critic, I will no doubt be called upon to set aside the prejudice this first chapter has earned.

Rated PG-13. 166 mins. (C-) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)

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